302 employees probed in UKZN Med School scam

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Investigations into an admissions scam at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) are still under way, with 302 staff potentially implicated.

A Daily News report says this is according to Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, the university’s vice-chancellor, who explained that a team had imaged more than 363 electronic devices that were seized from staff suspected of being involved in the elaborate scam.

Last month, UKZN revealed that more than 200 staff members could potentially be linked to the scam at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.

The report says in May, Varsha and Hiteshkumar Bhatt and a former Chatsworth school teacher, Preshni Hiramun were arrested on charges of fraud and contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. The trio allegedly worked as agents alongside a syndicate at UKZN to enrol students at the medical school.

Last month, van Jaarsveld said 286 computers were taken during a search-and-seizure operation. This was in addition to the 18 staff members who were issued with letters of intent to suspend. One person has already been dismissed.

“The university’s forensic services unit and independent external forensic audit firm, Deloitte, concluded a wholescale search-and-seizure exercise that was conducted across our five campuses. The initial focus of the operation was 286 employees, however, the number had subsequently increased to 302 employees,” he is quoted in the report as saying.

According to the vice-chancellor, in the middle of last month, the team began with the imaging of computers (scanning through a computer’s hard drive). “To date, they have managed to image 363 devices,” said van Jaarsveld. He added that two offices were searched. Additional documents and a computer were seized.

“As this process unfolds and until we can review the data, we are continuing with our investigation to ensure that there is a successful civil and criminal case,” said van Jaarsveld.

The report says, meanwhile, the Bhatts and Hiramun have been granted permission to travel to India at the end of this year. The request was made at their last court appearance on 31 August. Their request was not opposed by the State.

Daily News report

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